Russian Environmental campaigner threatened with prison
20th June 2019
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Alexandra Korolyova a director of anti-nuclear and anti-coal group Ecodefense is being threatened with prison time, relating to failing to pay fines after Russian courts deemed the organisation a “Foreign Agent”.

Ecodefense, founded in 1989, is one of the oldest environmental NGOs in Russia. It currently operates in Moscow, Kaliningrad, and Kuzbass. Coal Action Network has worked with Ecodefense to highlight the horrendous conditions surrounding the Kuzbass coal mines which supplied 46% of the coal imported to the UK’s power stations in 2017. Fern and Coal Action Network released a report, Slow Death in Siberia, in 2017 describing first hand the impacts of coal mining on the indigenous Shor community.

A foreign agent is Moscow’s terms for non-profit groups, or NGOs, that receive funding from overseas and engage in political activities. The group says it cannot pay the £27,000 fines as all their funds have been raised for specific projects.

Ecodefense is committed to nonviolence, does not participate in politics, and does not accept funds from the state or major business organizations. Ecodefense campaigns against the harmful impact of coal production, construction of nuclear power plants, and import into Russia of nuclear waste. It advocates the protection of urban green spaces and environmental education,” said Ecodefense in a statement on their website.

The Times (paywalled) has reported that Alexandra Korolyova has left Russia and is seeking asylum in Germany as a result of the persecution. Germany also imports significant quantities of Russian coal.

[copied from the original by the Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany]

16 NGOs from around the world stand by our friends in Russia. Stop the criminalisation of human rights and environment defenders!

Ecodefense is one of the oldest environmental groups in Russia, founded in 1989 in Kaliningrad. It works in various regions of Russia including Moscow, Kaliningrad and Siberia (Kuzbass) and has already successfully stopped nuclear power plants and coal mines.

In 2014 the Russian government officially labelled Ecodefense as a “foreign agent”, because the organisation convinced a number of investors from Europe not to invest in a nuclear plant near Kaliningrad, which stopped the plant’s construction in mid-2013.

The Russian Ministry of Justice initiated 28 legal (administrative) cases against Ecodefense for non-compliance with the law, leading to fines totaling Euro 30,000, which the organization did not pay until now. Ecodefense turned to the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) in the collective case “Ecodefense and Others vs Russia” together with 61 Russian civil society groups that were affected by the law on foreign agents.

In May 2019, the situation worsened even further: Russian authorities launched 5 criminal cases against Ecodefense. These charges could mean a jail-sentence of up to two years for the organisation’s director, Alexandra Koroleva.

Though Ecodefense is not the first NGO to refuse to pay its fines, it is the first case so far in which the authorities have launched a criminal case against a civil society organization. This is a dangerous precedent, which could lead to further crackdowns on the civil society of Russia!

Declaring Ecodefense a foreign agent as well as the criminal charges against the organization are clearly driven by political motives.

In solidarity with Ecodefense

  • we demand all charges against Alexandra Koroleva and her organization to be dropped immediately
  • we will actively spread information on the political repression of Ecodefense, to make sure their case stays in the public realm
  • we are collecting donations for Ecodefense to pay their – wrongfully imposed – fines, as this could help to ease their current situation.

Signed by:

  • Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz-Kolumbien, Schweiz
  • Banktrack
  • Bürgerinitiative Lüchow-Dannenberg, Germany
  • Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe
  • Coal Action Network, UK
  • Colombia Solidarity Denmark
  • Dachverband der Kritischen Aktionärinnen und Aktionäre, Germany
  • FERN, Belgium/UK
  • Fundacja “Rozwój TAK – Odkrywki NIE”, Poland
  • groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa
  • Les Amis de la Terre, France
  • London Mining Network, UK
  • Ökumenisches Netz Rhein-Mosel-Saar, Germany
  • Re:Common, Italy
  • Umweltinstitut München, Germany
  • urgewald e.V., Germany

[copied from the original by the Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany]